Apple’s Nod to the Enterprise

    It may have been a long time coming, but are we finally starting to see Apple warming up to the enterprise?

    Many top IT executives have made no secret of their displeasure toward Apple ever since the company virtually rewrote the enterprise data game plan with the iPhone and iPad. The irritation stems not from the fact that Apple’s devices represent a fairly major disruption to the enterprise ecosystem, but rather, it is the company’s perceived indifference to the needs of the enterprise in favor of the enterprise user as it rolls out new features and updates.

    A case in point is iOS 7. The demo at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) earlier this month drew generally positive, but not stellar, reviews, even though the details of many features are to be kept under wraps until the platform hits the channel this fall. What is known, however, is that a smattering of enterprise-friendly additions, such as improved data protection, license management and log-in tools, are to be included – although exactly how they would function and whether they would truly satisfy enterprise requirements is still up in the air.

    These are crucial considerations because without the right tools, the device’s value to the enterprise is greatly diminished. Without support for pre-configured applications and broader interoperability with Microsoft and Google, deployment of Apple technology merely creates another data silo at a time when most organizations are desperately trying to flatten out their architectures so data and applications can be more easily distributed across the cloud. At the moment, most organizations support Apple products because their knowledge workers use them, but if the enterprise were ever to start deploying mobile clients the way they do PCs today, is it likely that Apple would be the first choice?

    But before we rain on Apple’s parade entirely, it is only fair to make note of some of the things it is doing to curry enterprise favor. As Mobile Enterprise 360’s Paul Kaputska notes, the single sign-on feature should be a boon to mobile infrastructure administrators, as will volume App Store purchases and per-app VPN control. As well, the new iWork for iCloud finally brings key productivity apps like Pages, Numbers and Keynote onto the platform.

    And besides, says’s Ryan Faas, isn’t it a bit disingenuous for enterprise execs to say Apple is rejecting them when they are the ones who’ve been rejecting Apple all along? Going back to the first Macintosh all the way through XServe and all the Leopard/Lion iterations, big business has consistently preferred low-cost, commodity systems to Apple’s integrated approach. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Business is just business, after all. But it seems that Apple has found a way to put its products into people’s hands without corporate approval and is loath to jeopardize its edgy vibe by becoming just another white-collar business tool. Business-is-just-business works both ways.

    It would seem, though, that both Apple and the enterprises that love/hate it are working at cross purposes with the i platform. True, it may not fully gel with the enterprise environment, but that environment is in a high state of flux right now anyway, and it will take a while before we regain a semblance of equilibrium.

    In the meantime, take Apple’s overtures as a good-faith effort to make the devices more useful to users’ everyday lives, both at home and in the office, and work diligently to integrate the technology into existing infrastructure.

    And rest assured that if you’re not getting as much productivity out of your iPad users as you’d like, it’s a good bet your competitors aren’t either.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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